The shopping centre Boven’t Y in northern Amsterdam is being transformed into Centrumgebied Amsterdam Noord (CAN). The integration of an ambitious parking, housing and shopping facility constitutes the first phase of this transformation. The project features a two-storey passage with commercial functions, topped by a multi-storey car park for more than 800 cars, as well as by 40 affordable rental homes.
As regards the concept, the building is the size of a football pitch and 25 metres high. This does not fit with the scale of the immediate environment, the ’Plan van Gool’, a 1960s neighbourhood with a lot of green space and blocks. The building is divided into four separate blocks with the help of an efficient ramp-based parking system. Three of these are used for parking. The fourth is a south-facing residential block. The whole is perched on top of a platform of shops. On the street side the residential block is divided into eleven vertical townhouses.
Gaps between the blocks provide access to the dwellings and form bridges to the other blocks. These gaps aid orientation inside the car park and ensure the removal of exhaust fumes and the penetration of daylight.
A double-height passage links the old shopping centre and the street and snakes through the building underneath the parking volumes.
The car park boasts an efficient parking system on a ramp. Exit and entrance ramps double up as parking spaces. Using a one-way traffic system, cars are parked on these ramps at a 70° angle, which makes driving in and out easy and instinctive. It also literally saves space: large voids between the ramps admit daylight. Owing to the single-span roof structure over the parking area, there are support columns only at the edge of the voids.
The ramp-based car park is composed of three volumes: two with a ramp and one (the middle) with a level lane. At the end of this middle lane the motorist faces a choice: up via the ramp along the front, or down via the ramp along the residential side. This avoids all cross traffic. The long entrance/exit ramp, which runs underneath the upward ramp, joins the street at the far corner of the building. Two lifts in the shopping arcade provide pedestrian access to the car park.
The middle volume is at an angle, allowing extra daylight into the passage and slowing down traffic. It is easy for people to find their bearings inside the car park: daylight between the volumes, painted numbers on the columns and different shades of brick give them an intuitive sense of where they are.
The eleven townhouses on the street side are south-facing and accommodate forty affordable homes for rent (ten per storey). Each flat is wrapped around the exterior space between the townhouses. A wooden gallery with ample voids between the townhouses and a car park provide access to the dwellings. Sunlight and daylight radiate past the car park to all the galleries.
The double-height passage is the building’s beating heart and contains shops, the car park lifts, a link with the existing shopping centre, a view of the car park and daylight. The curve in the passage enhances the atmosphere and provides space for pavement cafés and display space for the shops.
The voids in the car park serve as ‘modern chimneys’ for the extraction of exhaust fumes and as sources of daylight. They provide the car park with completely natural and sustainable ventilation, as clean air is admitted through the partially open brick façade. The car park lighting can be dimmed and adjusted according to the level of daylight. Furthermore, the flats are south-facing.
Because the entire building is made of brick, deploying different techniques and colours, it looks warm and durable. The car park façade is based on a semi-transparent brick façade system, developed in conjunction with manufacturer Leebo: bricks are threaded onto a prefabricated steel frame in a diagonal pattern, then the frames (2.5 x 3 metres) are attached to the concrete skeleton. The façades are textured because the bricks can be laid at two different depths. The bricks also slot into the frame in such a way as to hide the joints between the frames. The relief lends scale and structure to the façades.
The surprise comes when it gets dark: the car park lighting is reflected off the sides of the open brick façade and emits warm, indirect light. Each brick panel can be illuminated separately like a ‘pixel’, with lights in the collision barriers. Willem Hoebink and Jan Hein Daniëls have translated this beautiful glow into a dynamic light sculpture. At night the building turns into a magic lantern. It rises above the shopping centre like a beacon of light.